February 13, 2013

Carnival cancels 12 cruises after Triumph fire

The Associated Press

HOUSTON — Carnival Cruise Lines says it is cancelling another 12 voyages for the disabled ship that is being towed to Alabama after an engine room fire left it powerless at sea.

click image to enlarge

In this image released by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday, a boat belonging to the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico.

AP / Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell

The cruises aboard the Triumph were to take place from Feb. 21 through April 13. Those cancellations are in addition to two other cruises that were called off shortly after Sunday's fire.

The company says passengers will be fully refunded and get discounts on future cruises.

There are more than 4,000 people aboard the ship, which is expected to be towed into Mobile on Thursday.

The Triumph has had other mechanical problems recently that delayed a voyage in late January.

Passengers aboard the disabled vessel have reported dismal conditions. Carnival has disputed those claims.

The cruise line says it is making the passengers stranded aboard a disabled ship in the Gulf of Mexico as comfortable as possible with running water and some working bathrooms, contradicting the accounts of some passengers who told relatives of filthy, hot conditions and limited access to food.

Carnival President Gerry Cahill said Tuesday the ship has running water and most of its 23 public restrooms and some of the guest cabin bathrooms were working. He downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of disease from unsanitary conditions, saying the ship had not seen an abnormal number of people reporting to the infirmary as being ill.

"No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions onboard the ship," Cahill said at a news conference in Miami. "We obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place."

Jimmy Mowlam, 63, whose 37-year-old son, Rob Mowlam, got married Saturday onboard the ship, said his son told him by phone Monday night that there is no running water and few working toilets. He said passengers were given plastic bags to "use for their business."

Despite a forecast of brisker winds and slightly higher seas, the Coast Guard and Carnival said they did not expect conditions to deteriorate aboard ship.

A cold front was expected to cross the central Gulf where the vessel is under tow, bringing north and northwesterly winds of 15 to 25 mph and seas of 4 to 6 feet, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.

However, such conditions shouldn't affect conditions aboard ship, said Bill Segelken, spokesman for the Coast Guard Galveston command center.

Carnival says the ship is expected to arrive in Mobile on Thursday.

The ship left Galveston, Texas, for a four-day cruise last Thursday with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members. The ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday when an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift on only a backup power.

No one was injured in the fire, but Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said Tuesday that a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution.

Everyone else likely will have to remain onboard until the ship reaches Mobile, Ala., which is expected to happen Thursday, weather permitting.

Besides two tugs, at least two other Carnival cruise ships have been diverted to the Triumph to leave supplies and a 210-foot Coast Guard cutter was at the scene, Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm said Tuesday.

Mowlam said his son told him the lack of ventilation on the Triumph had made it too hot to sleep inside and that many passengers had set up camp on the ocean liner's decks and in its common areas. Mowlam said he wasn't sure where his son was sleeping.

"He said up on deck it looks like a shanty town, with sheets, almost like tents, mattresses, anything else they can pull to sleep on," said Mowlam, of the southeast Texas town of Warren. His son is from nearby Nederland.

(Continued on page 2)

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